Raise your hand if you have ever worked for a leader that always seemed frantic. Too many priorities, not enough time, everything is on fire – all of the time. Now keep your hand up if you have ever been that leader!
I know I have. Many of the leaders I work with run into this same challenge. There is a lot of activity all year long and yet when the end of the year comes the results that should have mattered most, mattered least and fell short of the target. The important fell victim to the urgent.
When you find yourself running on this treadmill as a leader, it is critical that you find a way to step off of it and align the execution of the day-to-day work of your team with your most important goals and priorities. It’s highly likely your team already has annual goals and targets in place – the goals that often get set at the beginning of a new fiscal year. If you are like most people I work with, those goals get locked away, safe and secure in some HRIS system; only to rear their heads again as the year draws to a close and performance evaluations begin.
A management system, even the most basic, can help you overcome the frantic pace of focusing on everything, increase the likelihood of achieving your most important goals, and provide increased clarity and engagement to your team.
Ready to create your own? Start with the four steps outlined below:
1. Lock on your target
What are the three or four most important goals or results you need to achieve within your given time-period? Typically this needs to be narrowed down to three or four to provide focus and ensure you achieve the most important results. Sometimes you have 10 or 20 measures, targets or goals that you think are all important. Or you have 4 bosses all trying to tell you what to do. One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to gather all of the stakeholder input about priorities and decide what truly matters most and negotiate as needed to allow your team focus.
2. Build your system
Design your management system by breaking down your team’s long-term goals into short term targets that can be tracked frequently to ensure progress. When goal setting with individuals, align their specific actions with the steps needed to achieve the overarching team goals. Below are a couple of examples to start. I encourage you to be creative with your approach. Build a system that works best for your team.
Have each team member build a weekly or monthly work plan to show what tactics and measures they’ll accomplish to contribute to the goals. This might include key milestones, achievements for the last work period, and barriers to success that need to be resolved.
Meetings focused on solving roadblocks and following up on action items can be highly effective. Consider weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings to assess progress, discuss challenges, and align on solutions. Other meetings might be daily or weekly huddles to track metrics and ensure progress – these are great Lean Management mechanisms. Remember, you will also need meetings to communicate and celebrate achievements with the team regularly.
3. Rally your troops
Once you have initial thoughts about your management system and its design, get your team’s ideas. In Stewart Leadership’s book entitled 52 Leadership Gems, Gem Eight explains that people tend to support what they help create. Creation is a natural human instinct, and as humans we are much more likely to support policies and procedures that include our ideas. Incorporate their input, and everyone becomes invested in the success of the system. When you have new people join your team, ask them for their thoughts too, and find ways to include them. This single action plays a critical role in ensuring success. It’s also an easy means of incorporating team building into your regular workflow.
4. Structure to win
Structure “forces” the right things to happen – or at a minimum makes its likelihood much greater. It’s why using a smaller plate helps you eat less and lose weight and why the preponderance of “meals” and “combos” at fast food restaurants generally get us to eat more and gain weight. By building your management system into your structure and calendar, you engage in a surefire and time-tested change management strategy. Stick to the timeline and keep your commitments; you’ll be glad you did when the positive results start rolling in and you achieve more wins!
Using these 4 steps to achieve goals within your team will help teams at all levels of an organization to step off the treadmill of running too fast and not getting far enough. These simple actions provide focus, clarity and structure so that you and your team are able to achieve your most critical priorities in an efficient manner. Here’s to you and your team’s success this year!